By Paul Hurh
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Additional info for American Terror: The Feeling of Thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville
34 AWA K E N I N G T E R R O R But in moving to the political ramifications of these antinomian episodes, scholarship on the revival period has had less to say about the particular content and ostensible cause of the dispute. Davenport, remember, charges Noyes with ignoring vital terror, and his own sermons come under fire for their stark use of terror. The traditional reading of this terror would say that terror is of the past, a holdover from the hellfire and humiliation sermons of a more orthodox tradition.
From Edwards’s interest in logic, Poe’s literary experimentation with the terms of analysis, and Melville’s INTRODUCTION 19 continued obsession with epistemological skepticism, all three authors engage with thinking about thinking, and find in logical method the clearest articulation of what thinking, as object, might be. Abstracted into sets of methodological principles and rules, thinking, for these American authors steeped in logic and epistemology, might be made apprehensible by feeling. 19 It is to find the feeling of what George Levine has identified as the narrative of scientific epistemology, that “continuing aspiration to get it straight, to understand what it means, to transcend the limits imposed by the limiting self ” which curiously, “depends on the elimination of the self ” (2).
What is necessary, then, is a term that designates the operation by which this binary is destabilized. I find this in Sianne Ngai’s definition of tone. Ngai, addressing the problem of where the feeling of a text occurs (in the text? ), theorizes tone as arising centrally from the subjective/ objective problematic of emotion itself: “Tone is the dialectic of objective and subjective feeling that our aesthetic encounters inevitably produce” (30). As tone, then, terror belongs not just to a certain figure in the text (as in objective accounts of gothic horror’s taxonomy of conventions), but neither is it found only in the reader’s experience (as in the case of the sublime, in which the subject regains superiority over the world of the objects of sense).